Paul Walker died when race car driver Roger Rodas crashed a Porsche Carrera into a pole ... and the joyride almost never even happened.

Walker and Rodas were pronounced dead on the scene on Saturday night (Nov. 30) after the vehicle burst into flames following the single-car collision.

TMZ reports that Walker, 40, and Rodas took the Porsche for a spin after they found it hadn't been functioning properly. Walker was on hand at Rodas' high end Always Evolving car shop for a Philippines typhoon fundraiser when they saw a shop employee trying unsuccessfully to back the vehicle into the shop.

Rodas urged the employee to let him do it himself, and as he did so, Walker approached and let him know that he hadn't ridden in the Carrera yet. The two friends then embarked on a 20-minute drive ... and crashed merely 500 feet from the shop.

When the crash went down, Walker's childhood best friend, Nute, and a gang of others tried to extinguish the flames to no avail -- and later got into scuffles with firefighters and cops, but were let go once authorities understood the circumstances.

Our thoughts remain with Walker and Rodas' families, friends and loved ones.


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